On Friday, 14 February 2020, DeZIM held expert consultations in Berlin, as part of the Cross-Migration project. A meeting in June 2019 had focused on DeZIM’s work package on migration infrastructures in general, that is to say, infrastructures that facilitate and mediate migration. At the consultations in February, experts zoomed in on the digital aspect of migration infrastructures.
Over the last ten years, research on the questions of how people use digital technologies on the move and how migration has changed due to digitalisation has developed considerably. During the consultations, experts discussed the state of knowledge, as well as research gaps in the field of digital migration infrastructures. Although there is already quite some literature on the topic, especially the Global South remains an under-researched area in terms of digitalisation and migration. The experts also argued that it is important to understand digitalisation, not as an isolated topic but to think the virtual together with the real world – for example, conversations on social media are often based on the trust created offline or through friendship and family ties. It is also crucial to explore to what extent digital technologies are not only a benefit but can also represent a threat for refugees and migrants as they can be used as an instrument of control and surveillance.
Finally, the experts discussed different research methods and respective ethical concerns reaching from the use of big data from Google or Facebook to traditional qualitative and quantitative data collection and ethnographic approaches. The experts discussed that it is particularly important to think of data protection and privacy issues and to have in mind the power hierarchies between mostly privileged researchers from the Global North and vulnerable groups such as forcibly displaced persons.
Nine external experts discussed the topic and their respective research perspectives at DeZIM. On the picture from left to right: Dr Franck Düvell (DeZIM Institute, Germany), Prof Amanda Alencar (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands), Dr Ingmar Weber (Qatar Computing Research Institute), Prof Jussi Jauhiainen (Turku University, Finland), Hannah Pool (May Planck Institute, Germany), Raffaella Pagogna (University of Vienna, Austria), Julia Stier (WZB, Germany), Carlotta Preiss (DeZIM Institute, Germany), Prof Marie Gillespie (Open University, UK), Prof Vasilis Galis (IT University Copenhagen, Denmark) as well as Margie Cheesman (Oxford University, UK).
The previous day, Thursday 13 February 2020, Prof Amanda Alencar and Prof Jussi Jauhiainen gave a public lunch lecture on the role of connectivity and digital divides during migration processes at DeZIM Institute.